By Deb Murphy
While some Southern California weathermen optimistically look at current conditions as a glass half full, the truth is the glass isn’t even half full. Try less than 10 percent full.
Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington delivered the latest numbers at Monday evening’s meeting of the Water Commission. The only optimistic piece of his Power Point presentation was from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast for the next three months. Varying shades of green – indicating rainfall from slightly to significantly above average—undulated across Southern California, stopping short of the Owens Valley. “That means we have an equal chance of getting higher or lower than normal rainfall,” he said. “It’s a toss-up.”
The graph on the country’s seasonal drought outlook shows that the Eastern Sierra’s drought conditions remain but will improve. According to Harrington, that translates into “the drought is so severe it can’t get any worse.”
The latest numbers, following last Friday’s rain, puts the water content at Mammoth Pass at 2.4 inches, .9 above the previous storm but still at 5 percent of the April 1 average. The Pass is one of the lowest water content readings from the state Department of Water Resources. The highest in the Eastern Sierra watershed is at Cottonwood Lakes at 4.5-inches, 39 percent of the April 1 average.
The sign on the Big Pine Mobil station has it right. It reads “pray for snow.”
Harrington finished his report with discussion and review of the annual Bishop Cone Audit, a document and procedure that has been questioned at previous meetings. The audit set-up in 1940 by the Hillside Decree requires that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pump less groundwater than the surface water used within the Cone boundaries that incorporate the Bishop Creek drainage extending south to just above Klondike Lake. LADWP provides the data; Inyo County prepares the report.
The audit for 2012-13 follows a 17-year trend: LADWP extracts less water than is used for mitigation projects and lessees. Specifically: 25,243 acre-feet were delivered for approved uses while 16,188 acre-feet were extracted.
In its 2014 annual report, LADWP stated the numbers were inaccurate, that approximately 6,000 acre-feet of water went to stockwater and conveyance loss and, therefore, not included in the approved use column.
On the other hand, Bishop residents at Monday’s meeting felt the numbers were not accurate – period — or not adequately monitored. According to Harrington, the county checked the monitoring sites at the beginning of the Long Term Water Agreement, in 1991. A sampling of sites are inspected each year by the county, the sampling chosen by LADWP, a procedure set out in the water agreement and the Green Book.